The New York Times reported today that Arkansas just past a bill – “the most restrictive in the country” that would make abortions past 12 weeks illegal. Currently Roe v. Wade permits abortions up to 24 weeks – which is considered the point of viability outside the mother’s body.
Certainly this new law will be challenged and the article states that even some anti-abortion supporters feel it is unconstitutional, but the bigger point is that is got passed.
Much like other women and gender issues in our post-feminist era, it seems people are forgetting what our readings this week pointed out – when both abortion and birth control were illegal there were dire consequences because of it.
Will new anti-abortion laws be enough for conservatives or will it need to go further to say that all means (except abstinence) is unnatural and kills babies? That may sound farfetched, but the Arkansas senator who sponsored this bill originally wanted it to allow abortions only up until 6 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period – which would typically be only 4 weeks of gestation. Many women, especially young girls, would not even know they were pregnant yet. Fetal heartbeat at that time can only be detected with a vaginal ultrasound. That would effectively ban abortion.
Then what? Make it illegal to offer anything but abstinence only sex education as well?
Pregnancy – intended or otherwise – disproportionally affects women. This is true not only physically but also as far as responsibility and care for children. Many men are good caring, dads, but a man can more easily father a child and walk away. If paternity is proven he can be told to pay support, but even that is not a guarantee of help, and financial support is not the only thing a child needs.
There is a whole bundle of women’s issue relating to childbearing – medical issues, healthcare insurance, loss of earnings/ability to work, childcare, etc. which seems to be ignored when we speak of reproductive rights just in context of morality – which also begs the question of who’s morality?
Do we want to force children on a mother who cannot, or will not be able to care for it? Are we concerned with poverty and child abuse? It would be great to live in utopia where every child was wanted, but reality is another issue all together and for that reason, it is my opinion that pregnancy is not a matter for legislation.
Unwanted pregnancies, like rape or abuse are often seen as the woman’s failure. It is ‘her’ problem. And if that is the stance that is taken then it needs to be ‘her’ choice what she does with the pregnancy, up to and including abortion. However, once again it is about control of women. I cannot help thinking that if men got pregnant we would not be having anti-abortion discussions.
It is a personal choice whether one believes abortion is right, moral, or an option for them – not an issue for the government to decide – and that is why the choice needs to be preserved. And what this all boils down to – what the argument is really about – is whether women have the right to choose.